The Boy From Baby House 10 is the harrowing story of a Russian boy’s first 9 years of life spent in the state-run orphan-care system. Alan Philps helps John Lahutsky tell his story of sheer determination and will to survive.
Born prematurely and with cerebral palsy, then abandoned by his mother at 18 months, John (known as Vanya) was diagnosed by the state authorities as an “imbecile” and “ineducable.” He was assigned to a bleak orphanage for those with physical and mental disabilities called Baby House 10.
The rest of the book is a detailed picture of the nightmarish orphanage system through the eyes of a little boy who, despite his dire surroundings, did not lose his spirit and intellectual curiosity. It is also the story of those who found him in the orphanage and sacrificially fought to help him escape a life of confinement.
This emotionally draining book fulfills the stated purpose of bringing awareness of the neglect and cruelty to children in the Russian orphanage system. It is also an amazing, miraculous example of God’s divine intervention through people committed to coming to the aid of some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Dr. Ludmila Shipitsyna brings to her book Psychology of Orphans a wealth of clinical experience as well as psychological theory. While much of this resource is valuable for anyone working or living with orphans or former orphans, it is particularly insightful for those working with children who have been institutionalized.
A highly respected researcher, Dr. Shipitsyna explains the results of research done in Russia. She then interprets the data to explain the needs of children from institutionalization and how to help them. With a candor that is uncommon when addressing these issues, Shipitsyna addresses the pitfalls of the current Russian orphanage system and proposes foster care (or, patronate care, as she calls it) as a preferred method of caring for children.
More scientific text than parenting manual, this book is heavier on data than anecdote and analysis than compassion. But for those who are seeking to understand a child from Russia’s orphanage system, sifting through this book for gems of insight could be well worth it.
Review by April Jurgensen
Abandoned to the State is not a read for the faint of heart. With raw candor, Human Rights Watch exposes the atrocities it found within the Russian orphanage system within a one-month period. It details abuse and neglect, the results of Russia’s harsh stigma against orphans.
This document provides a helpful explanation of Russia’s orphanage system, demonstrating how children are segmented by age and presumed abilities (or lack thereof). But it also examines a cultural prejudice against children who’ve been abandoned and offers specific examples they observed during their examination of the system.
Not only do many of the abuses detailed in this book violate human conscience, but they also violate a myriad of international and Russian laws. This volume includes a plea for Russia to make changes which restore human dignity to the orphan.
Though the copyright on this book is 1995, I fear Russia has not made as much progress toward change as Human Rights Watch hoped for when they published it.
Admittedly difficult to read, this book can be a powerful introduction to Russia’s orphanages, giving potential visitors both knowledge of and compassion for the children they could potentially meet.
Readers should be aware that some of the photos included are quite disturbing.
Review by April Jurgensen